Bowling News USA - May 17, 2011 Good Bowlers Know Their Roll Before The Competition Begins
Dede Davidson packed lightly for her trip from California to Syracuse for the United States Bowling Congress Women’s Championships in April.
She brought just two bowling balls, one for her first shots and one for her spare attempts. That’s at least five or six fewer than many elite bowlers, like Davidson, arm themselves with in major competitions.
“You can get away with balls that work in most conditions,” said Davidson, a former competitor on the women’s pro tour. “I’m into what’s going to work, what’s going to carry (into the pins). The less balls I bring, it’s easy for me. I don’t have to second-guess myself.”
Davidson left nothing to doubt here. Her minimalist approach produced a total pinfall of 2,199, a score that leads the all-events total in the scratch division. Along the way she became the only bowler in 92 years of the competition to post a 300 game and an 800 series in the same tournament.
Bowlers as skilled as Davidson could probably roll a cantaloupe down the lanes and still walk away with nary an open frame. But most in her class don’t want to leave anything to chance when it comes to ball options. They will tow in as many balls — typically weighing 15 pounds each — as they feel necessary to piece together a security blanket.
Here’s a look at some of the issues factoring into their weighty decisions:
How many types of balls are there?
In terms of function, two.
The one that bowlers throw on their first shots is called a strike ball or a high-performance ball. These are usually made of reactive resin or urethane.
Second rolls bring out the spare balls. These are made of plastic. Because some are clear, they lend themselves to creative interior designs, everything from boxing gloves to shark faces to sports logos.
Bowler Jen Creno, from East Syracuse, carries a part of home in her spare ball. She competes collegiately at Delaware State, but uses an orange-tinged plastic ball.
“When I’m out in college I like to represent Syracuse and orange is the way to go,” she said.
What’s the difference between the two balls?
Strike balls have a tacky, rough surface that bites into the oiled lanes and cranks hard toward the pocket. Imagine snow tires hugging an icy road.
Spare balls have a shiny, smooth finish and are designed to navigate the lanes on a straight path. Picture a hockey puck gliding on ice with minimal friction. This gives the ball the accuracy needed when aiming for one or two remaining pins.
So why do bowlers need so many balls for competition?
Ah, here’s what separates the bowler who cashes the winner’s check from all the rest.
Usually, bowlers need just one plastic ball per match for the spares. All the rest are high-performance balls.
Lanes are oiled much differently for every competition. More oil means less friction and reduced traction for the ball.
High-performance balls have different surfaces created to deal with the range of oil conditions. Rougher surfaces, with more grip, are needed for heavier oil. As the match goes along the oil pattern may wear down, requiring balls that are slightly less tacky.
During practice attempts, it is up to the bowlers to determine how the oil pattern is affecting their shot and estimate which high-performance balls they will bring into that match.
“It’s all about creating the most room for error and giving your bad balls a chance to strike. There’s a saying on the tour — he who finds it (the right ball) first, wins,” said Cliff Saliba, a Syracuse bowling hall of famer and a worker in the USBC Nationals’ pro shop. “There’s speculation involved. But they have an educated idea of what each ball can do.”
What’s inside a high performance ball?
Another crucial variable called a weight block. This singular chunk gives the ball its weight.
The bigger the weight block, the more times the ball will rotate and the greater the hook. Depending upon how hard a bowler throws, balls usually revolve 13 to 18 times before hitting the pocket.
How much do these balls cost?
High-performance balls can exceed $200. Spare balls are less than $100. Drilling finger holes runs about $35-60.
How long do bowling balls last?
Saliba said that after about 40 games, balls lose about 15 percent of their traction because their pores get clogged with oil and tend to slide more. Pores can be cleaned and the balls restored to close to their original condition.
“It’s a little bit of a judgment call,” said Saliba, who owns a pro shop in Liverpool. “In my opinion, maybe three years, max. I wouldn’t keep a ball longer than that. There’s nothing like a new ball. It pumps you up. High expectations. I think there’s a psychological aspect to it.”
What’s that smell?
That soothing temptation for the nostrils is coming from the ball itself.
Manufacturer Storm produces scented bowling balls, coming in aromas like grape, raspberry, creamsicle, maple syrup and chocolate, among many others.
A novelty, for sure, but do they help your scores?
“It can have an emotional, settling impact as you pick up your ball, be part of your routine,” Saliba said.
Story courtesy of blog-syracuse.com
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